My only son, James Rhodes, Jr., 24 years old was, gunned down, “execution style” with a single gunshot to the head on May 20, 2016, on the streets of Camden, New Jersey. EXPIRED. Just like that. Gone. He died in Cooper University Hospital of a gunshot wound to the head approximately 20 minutes after being shot. His death has been declared a Homicide. His was the first of four homicides in a weekend killing spree in Camden.
And now as my own life imitates my art, I get to experience the same tragedy I wrote about. My fictional character suffered through the death of her youngest son. The title of my first nationally published novel, entitled “EXPIRED” revealed the shock, pain and heartbreak of a Mother whose son has been murdered. What are the odds that my life would duplicate my writing? But, sadly it is true.
It’s so ironic, really, that I’ve lost my only son to the very same type of horrific situations I’ve been fighting against, and illustrating in my writing. Trying to save our children from these very same circumstances from which he died. Trying to enlighten others through my writings.
I wanted to impart hope, faith, strength, as well as a sense of empowerment to our youth, and I was doing that through fictionalized accounts of urban life, modeled after every day realities and some of the challenges they were facing trying to grow up in circumstances that have been rigged against them from the start in many ways. A simple fact.
Once in a Teen Summit I lectured in I had one of our youth tell me, “I did not think I had a choice until I read your book Out “A” Order.” How is it in this day and age do our youth feel they don’t have a choice?
That they must just endure their dire circumstances because there is no hope? Being born black and male, economically disadvantaged, many of them experiencing the stress from the time of being in their mother’s womb, watching the poverty, lack of progress and opportunities drain the life blood out of their mothers, fathers, uncles, and aunts, etc., until so much of that turmoil has built up inside, and is now being displayed in many unnamable ways, and that pent up rage is boiling in the streets as they struggle against the nameless, faceless disadvantages constantly heaped upon them.
And now it’s all out of order.
The results are unbelievable, paralyzing, spewing out in terror and hatred with nowhere to go except in the direction of the very same oppression in which they were born. They are helplessly watching the constant struggle without reward. The result in many cases is inward, and our blood is running in the streets.
We point the finger at the horror of the end results but many times forget to question the very circumstances which created the situation with all of it’s defining factors. No matter how it happens our sons are dying. They are not reaching the age of 25 years old. Our sons lives matter. And, we have to step up and let the world know. We have to let them know. We have to let the voice of those whom are now voiceless be heard.
So I ask, just exactly how many of our sons’ deaths are acceptable? Is it one, one hundred, one thousand or one million? I personally feel even one is too many. How many lives have to be lost before the words “IT’S ENOUGH,” explodes in a chain reaction motivating us as Black mothers, Black fathers, Black grandparents, Black brothers and Black sisters, Black cousins, Black nieces and nephews, and all of those people who “really” care to collectively agree that we are losing our sons, that our children are in fact “EXPIRING” before our very eyes at an alarming rate?
What is it going to take to stop the bloodshed? To stop the violence? We have to begin addressing it, collectively, seriously. Let’s have the conversation right here and now because time is running out. Every second we waste another life is being lost, that might have been saved. There is power in numbers.
Our Black sons are becoming casualties of war, some kind of invisible war, right here on United States soil. Their blood is running in the streets in our very own neighborhoods, each and every, day. The young man charged with the murder of my son, also 24 years old, is incarcerated presently under a $1 million dollar cash bail. (Read more at www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2016/05/camden_arraignment_murder.html)
One bullet, two lives destroyed, all in an instant. Myself, the grieving mother in the ashes of the tragedy, whom can barely sleep at night, as images of my son haunt me, his voice, his smile, his telling me, “Mommy I love you.” Words that I will never hear from his lips again. The quaking, heart-wrenching despair as I think of him lying with a gunshot wound to the head, alone in the dark, and beyond my reach.
The unbelievable state of shock that my body has been in since receiving the news. I feel like a passerby and a sleepwalker in my own life. Numbing, mind altering grief and disbelief grip me as I hope I wake up tomorrow morning and it’s not true. Yet, every single morning since May 21, of 2016 I have awaken to the same awful truth. My son is dead.
And so I ask you to join me in this “Quest” to save yours or someone else’s son who is still alive from such a fate, and tragedy. Join the Conversation. You may email me privately if you wish. I’m listening. Please share, tweet, pin, hashtag, follow and email so we all get the same message, “We Need to Save Our Children.”
Let’s start the conversation. Now. Collectively we can do this. I implore you please do not let one more young man EXPIRE without us at least having the conversation. There are things that need to be done. It takes a moment to start a National Collective by hitting the buttons, SHARE, TWEET, COMMENT, HASHTAG, FOLLOW, PIN, OR EMAIL. Ask everyone to do the same, and so on and so forth. We use Social Media everyday, lets put it to good use. I want to hear from you.
Your son is my son. My son is yours. Your daughter is my daughter and my daughter is yours. My child is yours and your child is mine. It takes a village to raise a child. Take the initiative now. My hand is out. Put your hand in my hand and lets save our children together. Our sons’ lives are not expendable. These young men need and deserve a present, a future, decent lives, to be able to earn a livelihood and raise their
babies amid sunshine, and green grass while being economically stable.
There is a back story here and it’s not pretty but it can be changed, step by step. With a Mother’s Love I share my grief and loss with you in the hopes of preventing this very same tragedy for someone else, some other mother and family. No mother should ever have to experience this pain. I wasn’t supposed to bury my son. My son was supposed to bury me.
There will be more articles forthcoming regarding the constant deaths of our sons. I am available to put in the work, collaborate, whenever, wherever. Let’s have a national chat. A “pledge” if you will that each and every person who cares will try to do something in their everyday life to the best of their ability to assist in changing these odds.
Evie Rhodes is the author of the nationally published book entitled, “Expired”. Visit her blog and sign up for updates at www.evierhodes.com or www.expired-the-movie.com/blog/